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1st Round Table - Stories of Successful Women in the Field of China Studies

Updated: Mar 31, 2021

Report by Irene Sacco

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2021, European Guanxi organized its first roundtable event, moderated by Valeria Fappani on behalf of European Guanxi Webinar’s Team. For the special occasion, European Guanxi had the pleasure to host four successful women who shared their stories and experiences in areas related to China. In particular, the panel was composed by:

  • Federica Ingrosso, Country Manager for the Chinese Market at Mia Burton and contributing writer to the Asia Desk for the Italian online magazine "Il Caffè Geopolitico" and "Dao Insights”.

  • Ivana Karásková, China analyst and university lecturer, founder and project leader of MapInfluenCE, and of China Observers of Central and Eastern Europe (CHOICE).; as well as China Research Fellow at the Associations for International Affairs (AMO), European China Policy Fellow at MERICS, and former Fulbright Scholar at Columbia University.

  • Babette Radclyffe-Thomas, PhD candidate at the London College of Fashion, with a dissertation on Vogue China's editorial, as well as brand consultant and strategist working with a wide array of clients internationally.

  • Catherine Hua Xiang, East Asian Language coordinator at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), as well as the Programme Director of a BSc in International Relations and Chinese and the UK Director of LSE Confucius Institute for Business London.

The discussion was focused on the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment. The main topics addressed in the panel were the challenges that women working in these fields face, as well as tips for overcoming them.

First of all, the speakers provided a comprehensive picture on being a woman in the field of China business, each from their own perspective. Most of them noted that women’s employment in such fields is increasingly improving, with particular reference to a usually male-dominated field like Political Science. Secondly, the speakers provided unique pieces of advice, such as the value of travelling and the importance of finding a mentor and building a Personal Brand. Above all, what the speakers strongly recommended to aspiring sinologists is that they find their own niche and never stop learning.

Some of the speakers also shared negative experiences where they faced discrimination in their chosen area of work, presenting it as the main challenge that they have had to face. In expressing their personal beliefs on the future of women’s rights, however, the speakers were divided into a less optimistic and a more optimistic position. Federica, hopeful about the future of women's emancipation, underlined the commitment of the Italian Government to bringing gender equality to the attention of the institutions. “Although I am not able to predict the future, I think that a wind of change is coming”, she said. Ivana, on the other hand, assumed that concrete results can hardly be expected from the Government, since it usually only acts when pressed. According to Babette, although feminist activism has made progress, the rate of improvement so far was not enough to meet the results hoped. She argued that we have to be patient about the future, as the public recognition of gender equality in the workplace is going to be a lengthy process. Catherine encouraged women to assume an active role instead, rather than wait for things to change.

Overall, the debate was animated by interesting observations such as the one underlined by Federica, who stated that men and women need to be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent, as the Ancient Chinese Philosophy of Dualism teaches us. Another interesting point was expressed by Ivana. She highlighted that, despite the fact that the speakers all come from different countries and backgrounds, they share a strong awareness on what has made them who they are today.

The panel definitely achieved its goal, which was to offer new food for thought and to provide practical advice for those pursuing a career in different areas of Chinese Studies, in the name of gender equality. The greatest lesson attendees received from the speakers is the importance of having the courage to affirm our ideas and individuality, even if it sometimes means dealing with other people’s judgements, as some of the speakers have experienced.

Despite the progress, advancing a career as a woman remains a challenge. What we learned in order to succeed in doing this is to have a clear vision and plan for the future, without losing sight of our goals. All the speakers demonstrated that they indeed have powerful career strategies. According to their stories, difficulties in life may arise, but what is important is the way we face them. Loving what you do, having self-confidence, curiosity, determination and positivity, are the main values these four inspiring women taught us; let’s start from these in creating our own path!

Curious about the details of the roundtable event? You can now watch it on our YouTube channel!


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